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How much thought do you put into your riding pack? We all know the risks in riding bikes, and I’m sure many of us share the ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. I’m only doing a local loop, I know it like the back of my hand. I’m at a trail centre, there will be people around. The weather is mild, I won’t need an extra layer.
Let’s revisit a recent trip I had to Leeds Urban Bike Park with a few friends for a lazy days riding. It was very windy and LUBP is a great way to avoid exposure, and just the weather in general. On our first loop we rolled up to the quarry and were discussing the line options, acknowledging the amount of riders with no helmets on (not uncommon for LUBP), and trying to decide if the quarry drop had been made bigger. At that moment, a man rode off it and didn’t land on his wheels – he landed on his face. He didn’t move for a good thirty seconds, and when he did show signs of life they came in the way of spine tingling groans.
It was 11.15am and an ambulance was called by one of my friends, subsequently meaning we needed to stay with the victim for when they called back.
Meet the team:
- Ollie – Victim. Cyclocross racer
- Dan – Good at spooning, fussy about tea
- Chris – Motorbike racer, just getting back into mountain biking
- Lee – Good at taking control whilst remaining calm
- Aaron – Hot drink connoisseur. Never panics
- Vicky – Very good in a crisis. Always has snacks
- Me – Emergency First Aid for Outdoors and AED trained. Naive, underprepared
Myself and Vicky went to the top of the quarry to stop people riding the line Ollie was strewn across. It was a bit windy, we attempted some yoga to keep warm and did some online research into Ohlins shocks.
Down below, Lee had called an ambulance and Dan was talking to Ollie, trying to gauge the extent of his injuries. A couple of coats were put over Ollie to keep him warm. The general mood was an understanding of how badly injured Ollie was, but no real concern for getting him to a hospital promptly because LUBP isn’t exactly remote.
Vicky and I blocked the line with a log because we were too cold to stay up in the exposed area. More coats were added to Ollie and I insisted on Dan and Chris getting under them with him for a makeshift bivvy to create more heat, despite Ollie saying he wanted his head out. A foil blanket was carefully tucked underneath Ollie who it turned out was laid in a boggy puddle. Helpful suggestions that we should call an ambulance came from riders that were passing through the quarry for a third time.
The mood hadn’t changed much. Jokes were being made to keep Ollie smiling. Several ambulances had been heard in the distance which was frustrating, but kept us thinking ‘any second now’.
The false sense of security that came from being at a heavily trafficked bike park had worn off. Vicky and I went to the carpark to get a stove and some blankets out of the vans. Aaron made hot water bottles, and had enough water left to offer Dan a hot drink. Lesson learnt – events like this have a knock on effect and you can soon end up with more casualties to the cold. With all the focus on Ollie, we hadn’t realised that Dan had been laid in the same position for several hours without a coat on.
Paramedics had called Lee back to check in on the situation. Still no sign of an ambulance, one rider that had passed through the park decided to drive up in his Defender and present a bivvy bag, build a fire and offer general support to us all.
Four hours and fifteen minutes after the initial call, our ambulance arrived. One paramedic acknowledged the fire and asked how long we’d planned on being there. When she found out how long we had been supporting a suspected spinal injury from a man now colder than the weather itself, she was shocked to say the least.
With help from a few of the lads from Team Ollie, the paramedics got him strapped onto a stretcher, carried him out of the woods and safely got him to a hospital where he spent the night. The fractured skull, broken clavicle and lung contusion made us all really glad we stayed the course with him, but also relieved to hear that his spine was intact.
This day left us all very aware of how wrong things can go, regardless of where you’re riding. Despite being five minutes from the hub café, the car park and hundreds of people, when you have a man that can’t move you are isolated. No amount of clothing can keep someone warm when they’ve had all their adrenalin drain out of their system while lying in a puddle. Lots of people looking after you are as good as no people if they don’t have the right equipment to help you with.
With that in mind, I am rethinking my riding pack with a little advice from Chipps:
- Bivvy bag – they pack down as small as an a grapefruit, there’s no valid excuse to not carry one on a day out
- Basic first aid kit – Pain relief, antihistamine, bandages, foil blanket
- Sugary snacks
- Extra layers and a hat. You might be fine in just a jersey, but what if you have to sit still for an hour or two?
- Notepad and pencil borrowed from IKEA. Useful for recording your location, phone numbers, names – and for taking an order for getting the drinks in at the café.
- A charged phone with some way of knowing where you are – whether that’s a GPS or a phone app like GB Converter that can give you a grid reference for the emergency services.
That’s it! That would have been more than enough for the four hour ordeal above, and it fits in a hip-pack with room to spare.